House on Hely Road

Can’t abandon my mandate to be the #1 source of Hely news on the Internet.  There’s a lovely house on 24 Hely Road in Port Elizabeth, South Africa for sale.  2.2 mill rands (about $122,602 USD?)


Not the Van Gogh painting I would’ve stolen

A bit dreary?  But you take what you can get I guess!


Plague Lit

Have only gotten through the introduction to this one, big daddy of ’em all.  Am now on the cusp of chapter One (“I – Man The Hunter”).

Disease and parasitism play a pervasive role in all of life.  A successful search for food on the part of one organism becomes for its host a nasty infection or disease.  All animals depend on other living things for food, and human beings are no exception.  Problems of finding food and the changing ways human communities have done so are familiar enough in economic histories.  The problems of avoiding becoming food for some other organism are less familiar, largely because from very early times human beings ceased to have much to fear from large-bodied animal predators like lions or wolves.  Nevertheless, one can properly think of most human lives as caught in a precarious equilibrium between the microparasitism of disease organisms and the macroparasitism of large-bodied predators, chief among which have been other human beings.
Humans, virusing on each other!
Later, when food production became a way of life for some human communities, a modulated macroparasitism became possible.  A conquerer could seize food from those who produced it, and by consuming it himself become a parasite of a new sort on those who did the work… Early civilizations, in fact, were built upon the possibility of taking only a part of the harvest from subjected communities, leaving enough behind to allow the plundered community to survive indefinitely, year after year.
I might treat this book more like as a longterm project.

Defoe! Now he’s fun at least.

In 1685 he joined the rebel army of the Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II… the revolt failed, but Defoe managed to escape unscathed and unidentified – riding to greet the new King William III and Queen Mary II in 1688, becoming a sort of informal adviser to them.  Then things get rocky.

Switching sides!  How did he pull that off?  That’s from the intro by Cynthia Wall.  I usually don’t read the introductions until after diving in, often never, but this is a good one.  Defoe, a wine merchant, pampleteer, always in debt, Robison Crusoe, Moll Flanders.  He died “of a lethargy” (what a way to go!  although I’m told it probably meant “stroke”) while hiding from people he owed huge amounts of money to.

Defoe was already a prolific and well-known author by the time he wrote A Journal of the Plague Year.  At the age of sixty-two he had had careers as a merchant, a spy, a political journalist, a religious and social satirist, a poet, a travel writer, an economist, an author of conduct books, and a novelist.

Journal of the Plague Year (the year was 1665, the book was written in 1720) is a kind of narrative non-fiction (half fiction?  that’s the whole joke with Defoe) narrated (sometimes?) by H. F., who’s probably based on Defoe’s uncle.
This is like a collection of horror stories, a little hard to read, but spicy.

I have heard also of some, who on the Death of their Relations, have grown stupid with the insupportable Sorrow, and of one in particular; who was so absolutely overcome with the Pressure upon his Spirirts, that by Degrees, his Head sunk into his Body, so between his Shoulders, that the Crown of his Head was very little seen above the Bones of his Shoulders; and by Degrees, loseing both Voice and Sense, his Face looking forward, lay against his Collar-Bone; and cou’d not be kept up any otherwise, unless held up by the Hands of other People; and the poor Man never came to himself again, but languished near a Year in that Condition and Died

Anthony Burgess in his 1966 introduction, included in this edition:

This is what it reads like and is meant to read like – a rapid, colloquial, sometimes clumsy setting-down of reminiscences of a great historical event… in reality it is a rather cunning work of art, a confidence trick of the imagination.

OK here we go!  The summer of 1348, ten young people flee Florence, go to the countryside, and tell one hundred stories, some of them funny, some of them sexy.

Trying to learn storytelling a few years ago, I dove into this one, but now I couldn’t find my copy.  This book is impressive for the sheer number of storytelling twists and plots:

but this go, can’t say I found it all that compelling.

Not to put it down, this is obviously an incredible achievement.

At the end Boccaccio has an epilogue that’s like a pre-attack on any possible criticisms.  Maybe more books should have that.

My favorite story remains the tenth story of the third day, about a virgin who is taught by a monk how to put the Devil back in Hell.

Don’t have a copy of this one in my house.  It sounds good!

Joseph Grand: Joseph Grand is a fifty-year-old clerk for the city government. He is tall and thin. Poorly paid, he lives an austere life, but he is capable of deep affection. In his spare time, Grand polishes up his Latin, and he is also writing a book, but he is such a perfectionist that he continually rewrites the first sentence and can get no further.

Hope to get to it eventually, but right now looking for something more amusing.

When I remember this era, will surely associate the early period more with Tiger King on Netflix.


Spreading the virus

There’s a phenomenon on social media I’ve been meaning to discuss on Helytimes, but I don’t know how to bring it up without being guilty of what I’m talking about.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  It’s this: sharing something that’s bad.

This is incredibly common on Twitter.  It might be the main driving engine on Twitter.  “Dunking on” stuff might be the most common category. of this.  You see something you don’t like, or that’s bad, or wrong, and you make fun of it.  But in doing so, you are also of course spreading it further.  Here’s an example:

Here’s another one:

 

 

One more:

I don’t mean to pick on these people, these are all pretty innocent examples (and I’ve done the same or worse), but you see what I’m talking about.  It’s when you go, look at this shit!  It sucks!

And I’m like well maybe I wouldn’t have even seen the shit if you didn’t tell me about it.

Sometime around 2014 or so I heard someone point out that Twitter has outsized power because every journalist is on it.  Non-stop.  It almost just a chat room for journalists (and media people).  Journalists are drawn to spread the news, good and bad.  Spreading the news is their job and I hope their passion.  But what if what you’re spreading is bad, or unhelpful?

Probably the answer is just to get off Twitter, but I’m addicted to the news.  It’s very addicting!  I’m trying to work on not spreading anything bad, even if it’s funny or entertaining or exciting or, maybe most tempting of all, outrageous.


cause a scene

via

You’re the Speaker of the House, you’re eighty years old, two trillion dollars on the line, and the problem is someone might “cause a scene.”

The idea of “causing a scene worth thinking about!

 

 


Dene

Sapir’s special focus among American languages was in the Athabaskan languages, a family which especially fascinated him. In a private letter, he wrote: “Dene is probably the son-of-a-bitchiest language in America to actually know…most fascinating of all languages ever invented.”

source

I’ve been doing some work to learn:

This is a good journey, but challenging.

Sometimes it leads me to stuff like this:

which: ok, how much can we trust these linguists?  Are we sure we’re on solid ground here?

The big categorizing of native American languages was done by Albert Gallatin in the 1830s.

Could he have been wrong?  People were wrong a lot back then.

Well, after looking it with an amateur’s enthusiasm, I feel more trusting.

I feel confident Navajo/Dene is connected to languages of what’s now Alaska, British Columbia, and nearby turf.

Navajo / Dene speakers can be understood by speakers of other Athabaskan languages, and most of the words in Navajo seem to have Athabaskan origin.

Edward Sapir wrote a paper about internal evidence within the Navajo language for a northern origin to this people.

Sapir was wrong* about some things, but no one seems to doubt he was a pretty serious linguist.

How about Michael E. Krauss?

After completing a dissertation on Gaelic languages Krauss arrived in Alaska in 1960 to teach French at the University of Alaska.

Krauss’ largest contribution to language documentation is his work on Eyak, which began in 1961.  Eyak was then already the most endangered of the Alaskan languages, and Krauss’ work is all the more notable considering that it represents what today might be considered salvage linguistics. While some Eyak data had been previously available, they were overlooked by previous scholars, including Edward Sapir. However, Eyak proved to be a crucial missing link for historical linguistics, being equally closely related to neighboring Ahtna and to distant Navajo. With good Eyak data it became possible to establish the existence of the Athabaskan–Eyak–Tlingit language family, though phonological evidence for links to Haida remained elusive.

If anyone makes any progress on native American language classifications while under precautionary self-quarantine, let us know

* I’m just teasing poor Sapir here, I don’t think it’s fair to “blame” him exactly for the “Sapir-Whorf hypothesis,” which maybe isn’t even wrong, and as far as I can tell it was Whorf not Sapir who misunderstood Hopi


fast and decisive adjustments

This struck home, read it in a Sequoia Capital memo someone Twittered.

Also in the category of: clear writing from people in the world of VC/tech financing, an anecdote retold by Morgan Housel

The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest battle in history. With it came equally superlative stories of how people dealt with risk.

One came in late 1942, when a German tank unit sat in reserve on grasslands outside the city. When tanks were desperately needed on the front lines, something happened that surprised everyone: Almost none of the them worked.

Out of 104 tanks in the unit, fewer than 20 were operable. Engineers quickly found the issue, which, if I didn’t read this in a reputable history book, would defy belief. Historian William Craig writes: “During the weeks of inactivity behind the front lines, field mice had nested inside the vehicles and eaten away insulation covering the electrical systems.”

The Germans had the most sophisticated equipment in the world. Yet there they were, defeated by mice.